Ding’s Christmas Wish List 2012
12/25/2012

Following last years Christmas wish list, here goes the 2012 version.

10. Fresh Cotleigh beer in the Atlanta area, please.

9. Death to all, ‘Special’ beer ‘days’ (e.g., ‘IPA Day’, ‘Stout Day’ etc.)

8. Breweries to think more carefully about limited release and special one-off beers. Far too many of these beers are ill-conceived and mediocre or even just poor. They are quite often horrendous value, too. Many opportunities are being missed.

7. A forlorn hope here. That US beer consumers become more discerning in their purchases. In doing so, this would send a message to the marketplace that mediocre beer that is consistently overpriced will not be tolerated, and in the process that genre of beer would begin to lose a foothold. Until the public become better educated about what represents good value, and what represents truly special beer, then we are all going to reap what the ignorant sow.

6. This one is really a combination of 8. and 7., above. No matter whether we are talking about collaboration brews or gypsy brewers, we would all benefit from a more measured approached from both brewers and the public in terms of what’s a good idea and what’s good value. Far too much below average, overpriced beer is being gobbled up by an uneducated consumer base in the name of collaboration and the gypsy model.

5. Another forlorn one here. My missing beeravocate place reviews to appear.

4. While we’re on the subject of forlorn hopes, how about the institution of a government body in the USA, similar to Weights & Measures in the UK, where the volume of a ‘pint’ glass is standardized across the country, and is enforced by law – literally. It exists for things like fuel, let’s apply it to beer.

3. I’ll never, ever give up the @sessionbeer mantra, so I will continue to wish for the US public and brewers to understand that only beer of 4% ABV or under should be considered (and labelled) as session beer.

2. That I could find my inner ‘beer peace’ in the USA. Still looking.

1. This one is so important that it has temporarily displaced last years #1 to this years #2. In some ways that’s a fallacy because my inner beer peace is linked to everything else, but…….

……..America, PLEASE, PLEASE I BEG of you (yes it’s come to that), stop using casks as pseudo Randall’s.

A cask is only an alternative method of dispensing and serving beer that should be able to stand on its own. A cask should not be used as an excuse to shove a bunch of extraneous crap into any beer. By persistently doing so you are corrupting a whole nations knowledge of cask beer, and misleading several generations of beer folk. It’s wrong and it needs to stop. You don’t know what you are doing, and you are not serving cask ale (in both senses of that phrase), at all. Please STOP.


11 Comments

  1. Chad9976

    #9 = agreed

    #’s 8, 7 and 6 – can you be more specific and list examples?

    #5 = lol, yeah keep dreaming

    #4 = Oiy, where to begin on this one? Before I mock you for being a monarchy worshipper, I need some clarification. Aren’t you a stickler for proper glassware and for the beer to be served in the amount and at the correct temperature the brewer intended? Are you suggesting a one-size-fits-all/across-the-board standardization of beer serving styles and brewers be damned? Surely you’re not naive enough to suggest that something like Chimay Blue should be served in a 16oz shaker glass alongside an ice cold Bud Light are you?

    I doubt you are, so I fail to see your point here. You don’t walk into a beer bar that actually knows their beer and ask for a “pint of a Trappist quad” or a pint of a barleywine. You’re most likely going to get 11.2oz or 330ml of something like that served in the approriate glass (which only holds that much anyway). Something like a 4.1% British style pub ale – yes, 20oz in a nonic glass, thanks.

    If you mean standardize the definition of “pint” – ok I agree with that. I’d say the vast majority of bars and restaurants, whether they be beer-oriented or mainstream oriented, a “pint” of draft beer will be 16 standard ounces. Only places that actually HAVE cask beer are likely to give you a “pint” in a 20 IMPERIAL ounce glass (19.2 standard ounces). I agree it’s annoying. Like here in Albany if you order a “pint” or a “full size” of a beer on draft at Mahar’s (a place that definitely knows beer) you’ll get a 20oz/19.2oz nonic glass. That’s fine for lower ABV beers, but even if you order a full pour of something like say N’ice C’houffe, you’re going to get 20oz of that in a nonic.

    New places like The Bier Abbey in Schenectady will ONLY serve you beer in the serving size and vessel the brewer intended (and they have different coolers at different temperature so your imperial stout isn’t served at the same temperature as the pilsners and lagers).

    #3 good luck with that quest. You’re putting the car before the horse worrying about relatively little details when we haven’t even gotten lower ABV beers in general in mainstream release (even by the craft beer scene’s 10% of the market perspective). Let’s campaign for more <5% pub-style ales (bitter, ESB, pale ale, Burton, mild, etc) THEN we'll split hairs on where to draw the line between what is and what isn't "session beer."

    #1 = agreed. If they're going to Randallize casks and make events out of them they could at least offer pure, unadulterated cask and then Randallized cask. Both are unique in their own way. Much like how I feel you're putting the car before the horse with session beer, I feel a lot of craft brewers, brewpubs and beer bars are doing the same thing by randallizing the hell out of everything when even the majority of American beer geeks really don't have much knowledge of or experience with cask beer. There's no need to make it extra gimmicky on top of that. You'd think just the word "cask" would be a big enough buzzword in and of itself to draw beer geeks out. There's no need to throw in freshly roasted coffee beans, peppers, or vanilla beans on top of that. If they want to do that stuff as a separate stand-alone randal or as a side-by-side comparison I'd be okay with that. It's not that I'm insisting on preserving a tradition (because cask beer most definitely is NOT our tradition in any way), it's that the cask presentation itself is unique enough already. But I repeat myself….

    Reply
    • Ding

      Examples of #6, #7 & #8? There are literally thousands.

      Your comments about #4 confuse me. I don’t know what the reference to ‘monarchy worshipper’ means. As for the other comments, let me say the following. Firstly there is no need for clarification of what a ‘pint’ is. In the USA it is 16 oz, so anywhere that is NOT serving 16 oz pours of anything that they advertize as a pint, needs to be held accountable and ‘punished’ accordingly. This should be a legal matter for Weights & Measures and doesn’t require any further discussion IMO. What concerns me more is that beer menu descriptions of draught offerings, often fail to tell the customer what size serving they are getting. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Chimay Blue or Bud Light, I still need to know what the $7.50 or $2.75 is referring to. Without the volume information, the price data are completely meaningless.

      As for your comments on #3 I think it’s lazy to use the lack of availability of low ABV beer in the US as an excuse to misuse terminology. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      In relation to #1 I have no interest in what brewers are trying to do in terms of creating ‘buzz’ or in terms of selling their beer to geeks, my concern is that they, and more importantly a whole swathe of beer consumers in the USA, are beginning to equate cask with the addition of ingredients to a base beer. Cask ale is NOTHING of the sort, and this ignorance is a catastrophic misrepresentation of an art that is fundamental to one of the greatest brewing traditions on the face of the planet. It’s wrong.

      Reply
    • Mervis

      Ah, it’s “cart before the horse”. Not sure why you would want to put a car in front of a horse.

      Reply
  2. Jeff A. Taylor

    Much good here — Chad as well.

    As someone who fears 2013 might be a year of re-trenchment in the craft craft, these are not small concerns. But I do think we need some perspective. First, to notions of value.

    I totally understand the aversion to “stunt” beers (which I think is really the root of concerns about “Randall casking” as well) but in talking to brewers it seems many — cannot say most — understand that these are primarily marketing efforts which TRY to preserve the goal of high-quality, small batch brew while creating a buzz or “event” around the releases. In other words, they strike me as picture-disc or blue vinyl offerings. Something for either the completist collector or the shallow hipster, true fans need not apply.

    And I’m fine with that. If these stunt or gypsy offerings help generate coin that is plowed back into the base operation, I cannot really complain. However. If they become the be-all and end-all of the brewery, then we have a problem.

    But a self-correcting one. Hype is never a long-term model for success.

    As for glassware, I’m firmly with Chad. Let’s banish the “frosted mugs” first.

    Reply
    • Ding

      I think that you have already ‘jumped the shark’ in the US in terms of ‘stunt’ beers superseding the importance of base offerings. In many ways, what you talk of is the only thing that distinguishes US beer from the traditional brewing nations. These ‘stunts’ are really what US brewing is all about – they represent, ‘the basis’.

      Reply
  3. Mack

    Great list. My main wish for the coming year would be that this ‘Growler Craze’ would calm down long enough for people to realize how ridiculous it is to pay what all of these places are charging! I am down with growlers. I get it. I would buy them regularly in a normal situation. But the pricing model that all of these new growler stores are following is just offensive. Total Wine in Sandy Springs today had a 64-ounce of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale for $16.99!!!! A six pack of this at the same store is $9.99. WTF???!!!! Greedy idiots is all I can think. Soon people will realize that this just doesn’t make any sense. Ale Yeah has decent prices, but all others I have been to are insane.

    Reply
    • Ding

      Mmmm, that Two-Hearted pricing is very, very interesting to say the least, but I place the blame FIRMLY with the consumers rather than the stores.

      With no specific reference to Two-Hearted, I fully understand that there can be some discernible differences between the bottle and draught experience of some (in fact quite a number of) beers. As such, if people (even if it is purely a psychological and/or subjective difference) want one over the other, then I guess that’s up to them.

      I also fully understand that there *may* (in some cases), be economic models/wholesale price structures behind draught and bottled versions of the same beer, that could easily lead to non-linear retail prices between the two formats.

      HOWEVER, even considering all of those factors very carefully, for a consumer to be prepared to pay over 1.9x the cost per oz for the growler version, IMO shows a profound misunderstanding of the value of (any) beer, and a degree of ‘blinkered’ ignorance and lack of discernment which characterizes so many of the people ‘lapping up’ craft beer in the US today. This kind of thing is what I refer to in the original post in points 6, 7 and 8, and cements my thoughts nicely.

      Reply
    • Brandon

      Hey Mack. I totally understand where you are coming from. I am actually a GM at a growler store called J.U.G.S. The main attraction to growler stores is that a lot of people believe that draft beer tastes better than bottled beer. With that being said it makes more sense as far as money goes to buy a growler than it is to drink at a bar. I was at a local bar the other day and they were selling Lagunitas IPA at $7 for a 12oz pint. Here we sell the 64oz growlers of that same beer for $12.29. A 64oz growler serves 5.5 beers. You are looking at $2.23 a pint. Another point I would like to make is that bottled beer is so much cheaper because there is no loss. Any keg at the right pressure is going to lose anywhere from 25-30% of the keg. That is why some of these growler stores are priced so high. So I can understand why growler stores don’t appeal to some people but at the same time others are willing to pay for good draft beer at the fraction of the cost than you would get at a bar or restaurant.

      Reply
      • Ding

        Hey Brandon, thanks for chiming in.

        Your point about the cost of draught beer at bars compared to growler stores is taken, but I would counter with a couple of points.

        Obviously there is a big difference between the bar experience and drinking draught beer from a growler at home, so I think the comparison is somewhat flawed (no matter which one you prefer/favor) – it’s simply not ‘apples to apples’ in terms of the experience or the overhead. Secondly, given that in the case of bottles and growlers both are being consumed at home, there is IMO, almost zero justification for (in the case of the Two-Hearted example), an approximate doubling of the cost of the beer – it’s nuts.

        As I said in my earlier response, I fully understand waste issues (and other non-linear factors) when considering bottles versus growlers for STORES, but I see no sensible reason for customers to be willing to take the hit. To me, it makes little to no sense.

  4. Mack

    Brandon,

    I have to agree with Ding here…. I am more than happy to spend my hard earned money at a bar for 5-7 bucks a glass of good craft beer at places like the Brick Store, Midway Pub and Bookhouse… but the only reason I see this as OK is for the experience and social aspect of being in a bar. Like I said, I get the growler concept – and I like it – draft beer tastes much better than bottled in most cases, but that doesn’t justify doubling the price. Nothing against you or your business.. I wish you all the best – but I recently bought a 64 ounce of Lagunitas Sucks – a more expensive beer than the IPA, for $9.99 at Ale Yeah in Decatur. I feel that this is a reasonable price…. I am getting a little less beer and I only have a brief window to drink it before it gets flat – but it is fresh and awesome. I just can’t see the comparison to bar prices.. I’m drinking it at home – not out at a bar with other people. I don’t think that the market is going to keep supporting these prices for much longer… and like Ding said, there are lots of dumb people out there who are clearly willing to spend a ton of money for no reason other than a new fad.

    Reply
  5. Mack

    Lastly – $7 for a glass of Lagunitas IPA (a great beer) is highway robbery. Where are you going that charges that much? Midway in East ATL sells it for $5.

    Reply

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